What Does it Mean to Be a Disciple?
Updated: Oct 26
Do you want to know a shocking statistic or two? Missiologist Todd M Johnson from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity found in a recent study conducted in North America, that 20 percent of non-believers do not “personally know” any Christians in their lives. Furthermore, Between 2010 and 2020, agnosticism grew almost four times faster than Christianity in the North American region. The United States may have remained the country with the most Christians globally in 2020 (263 million), but it also is home to over 53 million agnostics and atheists (the second-largest population, after China). With these statistics in mind, I’ve found myself reflecting on my role as a disciple of Christ, and how I can be a better servant of His kingdom.
First to begin with a definition; Being a disciple of Jesus has been defined in many ways over the years but in short one working definition among theologians is: “Believing, loving, and following Jesus, and his teaching and living a life through a dedication to advancing The Great Commission and Great Commandment”. As such, a key characteristic of a follower of Christ is one who makes disciples.
Matthew 28:18-20, known as The Great Commission, says:
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Here Jesus makes it clear, that the work of continuing His ministry falls to us, and through the Trinity, they will be saved, and see life transformation.
Being a disciple means being intentional with our lives and the work we do for Him. Jesus clarifies the word “disciple” in passages such as Luke 5:27–32; 15:1–10, and 19:1–10, where He develops the concept of seeking lost people such as Levi the tax-gatherer and his friends, tax-gathers, and sinners in general, and Zacchaeus. Far too many times we disciples are waiting for lost people to come to us, rather, we the church NEED to take the initiative and pursue these lost people. We cannot be followers of Christ if we chose when we are and when we are not working for His kingdom. For if we are not actively working and being intentional with our works then Jesus will not remain at the forefront of what we, eat, speak, say, and do.
Furthermore, Jesus sought to bring transformation into people’s lives. He wanted them to live a life that was all about Him – a life that says, “It’s not me that’s living my life now – it’s Jesus.” Being a follower of Jesus is to put Him at the center and to make him the supreme ruler of all that you are and all that you do. It is to allow him to lead you, by the Spirit, out into the world as an agent of transformation in the lives of others.
Finally, As John 13:35 says:
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
If we do not love others, then we do not know the God of love. Francis Schaeffer observed that “your love for one another ought to be so strong that it will unite believers and that, when believers are living in unity, the world would believe that Jesus was sent by God”.
The modern-day disciple must be committed to love: loving God, loving your neighbor, and loving your brothers and sisters in Christ, and in turn we will be His disciples, helping to fulfill the Great Commission.